Wednesday, January 04, 2006
by Fumo Verde
On September 1, 1990, the Grateful Dead were scheduled to perform at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, but couldn't due to the recent death of keyboardist Brent Mydland less than two months earlier. Instead of canceling the show, Jerry decided the best solution was to have the Jerry Garcia Band step in and perform.
This show wasn't an homage to an old friend or a played-out patronizing tribute for the fans; it was about the music and the soul inside the band. The members of the JGB are its namesake on guitar and lead vocals, Melvin Seals on keyboards, John Kahn on bass, David Kemper on drums, and Gloria Jones and Jackie Labranch providing backing vocals.
Opening up the first song of set one was "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You", written by Lamont Dozier and Brian and Eddie Holland for the Motown label. The JGB plays it different than any of Motown's artists who have performed it, coming out with bluesy-essence, almost ragtimesque in spirit. This gets the crowd involved, although since this is recorded right through the soundboard, you can barely hear the crowd at all, yet you can see it in the face of the band.
From that, they go into "Stop that Train" and for all of us natty-dreads we feel the roots of this one. Written by Peter Tosh and preformed by Bob Marley & the Wailers on their debut album, Catch a Fire, Fumo's favorite, Jerry's voice is so different than Marley's or Tosh's as it catches the vibe and roots of tale being told. Next up, "Dear Prudence" taken from The Beatles, and then into Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." Each of these songs is not played as a cover, but as new sounds being experimented on by a highly talented team of professionals. The first set ends with the Hunter/Garcia original, "Deal," which captures the glory of the old west.
The second set is filled with just as much energy and emotion. too. "I Second That Emotion" by Smokey Robinson. Again the JGB redefines the song from a Motown pop icon into a folksy, almost-southern-rock tempo that could make white men jump. "Think" by Jimmy McCracklin, a blues song if there ever was one, is played that way with emotion flowing out of every pore of Jerry's body, but the killer-diller of the show, the song that lets him, his guitar, and the band unleash their souls is the Gillespe/Smith tune, "That Lucky Old Sun." It has been performed through the years by many of the greats: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby, but according to biographer Blair Jackson in the "Interview" section, Ray Charles' version was Jerry's favorite interpretation and that is the style he emulates. If he were singing one for his old friend Brent, then here it is. As always, the JGB leaves on a positive note with another Dylan tune; "Tangled Up In Blue" is played in that old "rhythm and Dead" style.
The music here is on fire from beginning to end, being rooted in folk, gospel and R&B. With the genius of Jerry at the helm, the experimentation keeps on truckin' even into the '90s. The camera work is your basic concert footage. The interviews are too short and don't really cover the event as it happened, but it is good to hear from the band members. Robert Hunter also gives an interview, again way to short, but he is a busy man.
All in all, this is a great DVD, be you a Deadhead, a Jerry freak, or someone who just likes to have live concerts to watch in your humble abode; Jerry Garcia Band Live At Shoreline is one of those shows. Jerry is all about the music and this performance shows you that.